Mumbai's Raj Bhavan gets a museum inside bunker

The picturesque Raj Bhavan now boasts of a one-of-its-kind of an underground museum inside a bunker that was originally built during the British era

The picturesque Raj Bhavan now boasts of a one-of-its-kind of an underground museum inside a bunker that was originally built during the British era. 

President Ram Nath Kovind inaugurated the museum in presence of Maharashtra Governor CH Vidyasagar Rao and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Sunday.

The British-era bunker was discovered by Rao in August, 2016. Closed for nearly six decades, the bunker had suffered extensive wear and tear due to seepage from the overhead lawn.

As the bunker is part of the history of Raj Bhavan and because a part of it lies below ‘Jal Bhushan’, the office and residence of Governor, there was a need to conserve the bunker so that it did not compromise the safety of the building. 

The strengthening of the bunker was carried out after a structural audit, a Raj Bhavan spokesperson said.

The bunker, which resembles a fort from the entrance, is spread over 15,000 sq ft and has 13 rooms of different sizes. Inside, bunker had rooms with names such as Shell Store, Gun Shell, Cartridge Store, Shell Lift, Pump, Central Artillery Store, Workshop.

The bunker was also found to have a drainage system and inlets for fresh air and light.
While taking up the conservation work, they ensured that all the original features of the bunker are restored and also that it is developed for adaptive reuse as a museum by incorporating virtual reality on the themes of cannon-firing experience, history of Raj Bhavan and a glimpse of the forts of Maharashtra.

Dioramas of cannons and soldiers, optical illusions of a bunker of infinite length and cannons have also been created for the museum. The premises will be open for viewing to the general public through online booking later this year.

The discovery of two identical cannons, each weighing 22 tones each, in the Mumbai Raj Bhavan estate last year has further added to its historicity. Dating to the pre-World War I era, the cannons – 4.7 metre in length and 1.15 metre in diameter – were found buried at the foot of the Raj Bhavan promontory, 25 metres apart.

The cannons are believed to be part of the defences of Bombay Castle against naval attacks and were first spotted by Raj Bhavan staff members during a tree plantation drive.

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